Intersection among most dangerous

October 14, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Buckle up.

Approaching the most accident-ridden intersection in Howard County, it's apt to get confusing.

The problems at the meeting of Guilford Road and U.S. 1 boil down to unclear lanes and an odd-angled road sign. All that makes for plenty of bad moments behind the wheel.

Take yesterday morning, for example.

A pickup truck and a van -- both traveling east on Guilford Road -- nearly sideswiped each other trying to cross U.S. 1.

Then another motorist -- traveling west on Guilford Road -- got lost within the intersection. The driver tried to cross U.S. 1 and continue on Guilford Road, but he followed that misleading sign onto U.S. 1 north.

"It's a little bit confusing exactly where traffic is supposed to go," admits Carl Balser, chief of the county Transportation Planning Division.

The confusion apparently led to the 54 accidents recorded at the intersection from 1990 through 1992 for a recently released county study. That's an average of 18 accidents a year, making it the most accident-ridden in the county.

The State Highway Administration calls any section of a state roadway that has 15 or more accidents a year a "high-accident location."

The county also ranked the Guilford Road-U.S. 1 intersection No. 3 out of 27 troublesome intersections for having five accidents that led to serious injuries during the same period.

In all, the Savage-North Laurel area has four of the 10 most dangerous intersections in the county, according to the recent study.

For the most part, the problems at Guilford Road and U.S. 1 are simple, says Joan Santmyer, who has lived several hundred feet away for the last five years: Motorists can't tell where Guilford Road's lanes are headed.

Drive east on Guilford Road toward U.S. 1. Its single lane branches into two at the intersection. Neither lane has directional arrows, lane markings or signs. The same is true from westbound Guilford Road.

So motorists are left to decide for themselves which lane to take.

To make matters worse, there's that peculiarly positioned road sign for U.S. 1 drivers that also can be read by drivers heading in both directions on Guilford Road.

Drivers who want to stay on Guilford Road often mistakenly follow that sign. Then they end up on U.S. 1 -- or worse, end up driving around in the intersection at great risk of an accident.

Speed comes into play here because southbound U.S. 1 traffic flows downhill, often at speeds exceeding 60 mph by the time cars hit the Guilford Road intersection. The speed limit is 50.

County engineers intend to take a long look at the intersection next week.

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